When Lady Seliah Phel wakes from a drugged sleep to find herself abandoned by her newly bonded wizard, she vows revenge—and to hunt him down. Tracking him through the familiar wilds of the marshlands of her home is the easy part; learning to use her nascent magical skills is something else entirely. So is facing the vast, uncaring society of the Convocation in a time of brewing war.
Jadren El-Adrel is not known for doing the right thing, but getting as far away from Seliah as possible before he drains her dry will be his one noble gesture. So what if she weeps a few tears. Better than her dying in his service—or enabling him to become the ravenous beast that crawls beneath his skin. Unfortunately, in his self-imposed exile, and without the power of his familiar, Jadren quickly runs afoul of the enemy.
As her vengeful quest for recapture becomes a rescue mission, Selly faces all she still doesn’t know about the greater world of wizards and familiars. And Jadren, once determined to walk his own path and stay far, far away from the idealistic fools of House Phel, finds himself aligning with them against the house of his birth. War is coming to the Convocation, which means a clever wizard should pick the side most likely to win.
Sadly, Jadren has never been all that clever…
I must confess, I’ve read this more than twice. It’s taken longer this year for me to
process how I feel and what I think about books, and then putting all that into words that
make some amount of sense. Which is to say, I’ve had this book glaring accusingly at
me, waiting for me to write a review already. This is the second full length novel in the
Renegades of Magic series, following the adventures (misadventures?) of Jadren and
Seliah, as well as Veronica and Gabriel. The structure reminds me of some early
romances I read where there were two couples, one more foregrounded, and the other
a compelling secondary storyline. This book also ends on a cliffhanger, and picks up
almost immediately where Shadow Wizard left off. Seliah and Jadren do even more
growing in this book, both as individuals and as a couple; we also learn more about the
way the other houses in this world work and how they may view Gabriel’s
Seliah goes from someone who is very self-centered (not in a mean way, just in an
oblivious way) and impulsive to someone who makes plans to achieve her goals. She’s
still dealing with people who know her history treating her as a child who can’t be
trusted to know what’s good for her. However, she recognizes how some of her actions
have fed into that dynamic. For example, at the end of Shadow Wizard, she didn’t think
through the repercussions of escaping from Jadren’s family and bringing him back to
House Fell to recover. She was focused on her relationship and her idealized plan of
how it would unfold. At the beginning of this book, she realizes that there repercussions
for those actions, and that she needs to know what they are and how they will likely
affect her family and friends. She also puts an effort into learning about being a familiar
and being in a relationship with a wizard from Veronica. What I liked about this aspect of
the character development is that it’s a way to understand Veronica’s relationship with
Gabriel away from the tension and drama that brought them together.
Jadren has good instincts but doesn’t know how to exercise them in ways that will make
him and Seliah happy, if that makes sense. Anything further would be a spoiler to the
rest of the book. Suffice it to say that he isn’t happy about leaving Seliah behind, and I
appreciate that he’s honest with himself about how he feels about Seliah. He is still as
clueless about moving through the world without magic, which is hilarious when Seliah
observes this in her chapters. This is balanced by Jadren learning about his unusual
magic and even a bit about how to make it work.
Gabriel and Veronica are dealing with the repercussions of Seliah and Jadren’s escape
from Jadren’s family’s clutches, as well as the consequences of Gabriel’s refusal to play
by all of the Convocation’s rules. What I enjoyed most about this book is the couples
working as teams to solve their problems. Veronica and Gabriel were better at this than
Jadren and Seliah, but that makes sense because they’ve been together for longer and
have gone through a lot of the growing pains that Jadren and Seliah are going through
in this book.
Overall, I think Kennedy nicely balanced the fantasy elements and the romance
elements in this book, and there was a lot of action in this book so it didn’t feel slow at
all. However, I wish the war that Veronica keeps expecting to fall on them would get on
with it already, and that this book hadn’t ended on as much of a cliffhanger.
You can buy a copy here.